The following terms are frequently used in court decisions and other discussions of LGBTQ and sex discrimination issues, although definitions can vary somewhat. These are provided to assist in understanding what is discussed in this update.


  • A single asterisk (*) indicates a definition provided in Guidance issued in August 2018 by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
  • A double asterisk (**) indicates a definition used by the Third Circuit in its opinion in Doe v. Boyertown Area School District
  • Transgender – * An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation.
    • A person whose gender identity does not align with the sex that person was determined to have at birth. A transgender boy is therefore a person who has a lasting, persistent male gender identity, though that person’s sex was determined to be female at birth. A transgender girl is a person who has a lasting, persistent female gender identity, though that person’s sex was determined to be male at birth.
  • Sex – ** The anatomical and physiological processes that lead to or denote a male or female. Typically determined at birth based on appearance of external genitalia.
  • Gender – ** A broader societal construct that encompasses how a society defines what male or female is within a certain cultural context.
  • Sex Assigned at Birth – * The assignment and classification of individuals at birth, including but not limited to, male, female or intersex and the related physical differences between the sexes, such as pregnancy.
  • Sexual Orientation – * An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other individuals, including but not limited to, heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.
  • Gender Identity – * One’s innermost perception of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.
  • Gender Expression – * The external appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, hair style or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.
  • Gender Transition – */** The process by which some people strive to more closely align their gender identity with their gender expression. Social transition may include a change in dress, using preferred names or pronouns, and/or an effort to be socially recognized as another gender. Physical transitions may include modification of the body through medical intervention. An important part of gender transition is a person being perceived by others as the gender that the person most strongly identifies with.
  • Cisgender – ** A person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex that they were determined to have at birth.
  • Gender Expansive – A term applicable to individuals whose gender identity and gender expression is outside of gender norms for their society or context.
  • Gender Dysphoria – A formal DSM -5 diagnosis in which, for at least a six-month period, an individual exhibits strong, persistent cross-gender identification as established through a variety of behaviors and persistent discomfort with their sex assigned at birth or sense of feeling inappropriate in the gender role of their sex assigned at birth.